The Spark: Spectacular New Spark HQ

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Welcome to this week’s edition of The Spark. Tuesday is News-day and this week’s article ‘Spectacular New Spark HQ’ is your anticipated update on the build at Spark Academy’s HQ in Melton Road…

Spectacular New Spark HQ

The new building at Spark Academy’s Headquarters in Melton Road is close to completion and owner Mital Thanki is excited to share.

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Outside of the newly extended building.
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These French doors will lead out into a calming garden space.

The building work at Spark Academy’s Belgrave site has progressed greatly since it was last reported on in Spark’s blog ‘Spark Ideas’. There have been several exciting developments in the last few weeks.

Completing the Outside

 

The building crew faced a large challenge in the weather. The bad weather at the end of July, as well as during August and September, meant the crew had to wait to put the roof on the new extension. The roof and windows went in at the beginning of October. The builders reported that they were very happy about no longing working outside as the days grow colder.

The new building will also be much bigger than before. A two-storey extension was added to the back of the building, which is a huge undertaking. This will allow Spark Academy’s teachers and students room to express themselves and experience their educational journey.

 

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The new upstairs room, complete with skylights.

An Inside Job

 

Once the roof and windows were fitted, work began on the inside of the building. One major job that has began recently is fitting the electrics inside the building. The large building has a lot of wiring and complex electrical work to be completed before it is ready to use.

As soon as the electrician completes the job, work can begin on decorating and furnishing the new building. This is the part of the job Mital is particularly looking forward to. The new building will reflect all of Spark’s key values. It will be spacious, inviting and calming. This will allow students to learn in a productive community environment.

 

When will it be ready?

 

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The view from the new upstairs room.

Mital is hoping that the building will be ready for the teaching and admin team to move in by December. This means that it is on track for Spark to begin offering lessons in the new building in the new year. Mital believes firmly that the new year and new term will signal the beginning of a new golden age for Spark.

The whole team is excited to see the new building soon.

Student Spotlight: Mirunalini Suthan

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Spotlight On…

It’s time for another Spotlight post! This week we’ve been catching up with another of Mital’s former students, Mirunalini Suthan to see how she’s been doing.spark academy tuition e1506086893524 - Spark Academy

 

 

 

What subjects did you study when you were here?

 

I studied Chemistry A-level at Spark.

Why did you choose to study with Spark instead of anywhere else?

 

The centre was recommended by a family friend to us. Spark was also the only tuition centre which offered chemistry for A-level pupils from the many others I looked up.

What did you enjoy most while you were attending your tuition lessons?

 

I attended taster sessions there and really liked the environment and teaching style. The environment was friendly and comfortable which allowed to ask as many questions and I needed to until I fully understood the topic. I also liked the fact that we were given booklets that were specific to each topic with questions in them so that we could practise them. This was very useful as it helped to not become intimidated by the questions and style of questions.

What are you doing now?

 

I have been accepted by the University of Hull to study the course I wanted (Geology with Physical Geography (Bsc) )

Do you feel like Spark helped you to achieve what you wanted to achieve?

 

Spark was very helpful as going there gave me the drive and motivation to keep pushing myself to do even better than I did before. I gained a lot of knowledge and skills in terms of answering questions. My level of confidence and attitude towards answering questions has change and improved significantly. Now I’m not intimidated by harder questions or afraid to answer them. I am also proud to say that I am no longer embarrassed when not knowing the correct answer to a question or asking for extra help. This is a big achievement for me as that feeling of embarrassment has been a very large hurdle for me to pass for these past few years, it was something I’ve never thought I could do.

What advice would you give students currently at Spark?

 

The only piece of advice I would give to current students is that they should give 100% of their effort when learning and to never ever feel embarrassed to ask for extra help. Asking for extra help does not make you less intelligent than others in your class. It will all be worth it and it will definitely help you in the long run.

To find out how Spark could help you too,  book your free trial today!

Headteacher Talk – October’s Principle Focus

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Here at Spark we’re very proud of our new Headteacher, Gemma. In fact, we’re making it a principle that we focus on our ‘principal’ each month. We’re dedicating one Teacher Talk each month to Gemma to let us know how everything looks from her point of view.

Well. First let me start by saying, ‘WOW’ – what a busy start to the new academic year we have had! We have welcomed new staff (including myself), a brand-new staff uniform and in the not too distant future, a new and improved Spark Academy Headquarters at our Belgrave site.

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Who am I?

I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you. My name is Gemma and I have joined Spark Academy as Headteacher.

I have come from a Science teaching background and am continuing to teach Science at Spark. My specialism is Biology, so along with teaching KS3 & KS4 Science I am taking the Year 12 & 13 students for their A-level Biology lessons.

I taught for over 10 years in state-run Leicestershire Secondary Schools before coming to Spark. Because of this, I have been fortunate to have had many proud teacher moments, from seeing former students continue their learning at university and the pursuit of alternative avenues of education to reach their desired goals and careers.

Why I came to Spark

 

I have developed a passion for teaching and learning. Enjoyment of your work is an important principle for me, and a key reason I pursued a position at Spark. In particular, I have a keen interest in making the current curriculum accessible to all students. Very few people are naturally gifted at academic subjects. For most of us it is something we have to work hard at. It is important to develop resilience as part of your learning, because we often learn better from making mistakes. Many people are afraid to make mistakes, even from a young age,

For some reason from a young age we are afraid to make these mistakes. It is my goal to create a supportive learning environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes and, ultimately, where they can learn from these mistakes. Whatever the background, or ability of students, my desire is that they are able to reach their full potential.

It is important to me that all students have the confidence to discuss their ideas and question the world around them. It is not only independent learning we wish to encourage but also a self-assurance to ask questions and to be inquisitive. We believe at Spark that it is this element to learning that is key to becoming a successful learner.

In addition to the development of our students at Spark, I also have an interest in continual development of our amazing staff. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was mentoring a bright ambitious young lady and having exciting discussions of what teaching and learning meant to her. I’m proud to say she is now our CEO and founder of Spark, Mital Thanki!

 

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Some of the amazing science Gemma has already taught included making volcanos!

Looking to the future

I believe that teaching is a vocation rather than just a job. We expect students to develop and improve their learning. In the same way, we as teachers also need to continually develop and improve our own practice. This ensures our learners are getting the very best experience during our lessons.

I aim to keep you updated on the teaching and learning strategies we are researching and implementing here at Spark Academy.

What makes a successful student?

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This week the Spark Ideas wheel has been turned over to Mital – what are the qualities she thinks all successful students should have? 

It’s tough being a student! So many expectations from others. However, most people find that the biggest critic is actually themselves. At Spark Academy, we tutor hundreds of students that go through the same emotions, year in year out. Many people think that the key to academic success through doing physical studying, but actually it’s much more than that. It’s your mindset.

The 5 Core Student Values are attributes that pupils must have in order to achieve their best. It’s how you feel emotionally that contributes greatly to your success and we would like to share this with you!

1. Endeavour

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Your motivation is key to your own success. Really sit down and think about what it is that you want out of life. If you have no clue about what you want to become, have an immediate goal in mind. Having such goals will make you want to work harder. Always endeavour to achieve your goal and set realistic targets to achieve it. All successful people have a thirst and drive to attain their desires. Be one of them.

 

“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” – Lionel Messi

 

 

2. Aspire

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This links back to having an immediate or long-term goal to attain. Really think about where you want to be in the next 5 years and set realistic targets to achieve it. Do you want a nice car in the future or a big house? How will you attain these things? Think about how you will get there. If you can’t think that far ahead, then think about something more immediate. Would you like to achieve the highest score in your class? How will you attain this? These are all aspirational goals which, if you put a plan in place, can be achieved. All successful people have a vision of where they want to be. They may not know the actual specifics immediately, but always keep it in the forefront of their minds. Be one of them.

“Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just how I felt when I was younger…I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.” – Lady Gaga

 

 

3. Optimism

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It is hard at times to stay optimistic when you have piles of homework to complete or when life starts to travel in the wrong direction. You have to remember to stay positive through these testing times. See the benefit rather than the negatives. Keeping a positive disposition really helps you feel happier and drives that ‘can do’ attitude. The piles of relentless homework now, will be the foundations of your future. Your school years shape you to achieve greatness. Relish in the opportunities that lie in front of you.

 

“I hope the millions of people I’ve touched have the optimism and desire to share their goals and hard work and perseverance with a positive attitude.” – Michael Jordan

 

 

4. Discipline

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Maintaining self-discipline is vital if you want to succeed. Simple things about how you present your work to how you manage your own time, is incredibly vital if you want to be ahead of the game. Many athletes undergo heavy self-discipline only to succeed at what they do. Keeping mentally fit helps you to keep a strong mind and stay focused on your goals.

 

“With self-discipline most anything is possible” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

5. Inspire

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Inspire others around you. Set a good example and serve as a role model. Take charge of your own learning and development, as  ultimately it will shape your own life and future. Surround yourself with individuals that share the same energy and passion as you do. All successful people surround themselves with people that they inspire and are also inspired by. This will further not only your studies but also shape your character.

 

“My whole thing is to inspire, to better people, to better myself forever..” – Kendrick Lamar

The Spark: Terrific Team Building

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   Welcome to this week’s edition of The Spark. Tuesday is News-day and this week’s article ‘Terrific Team Building’ details the entertaining tales of Spark Academy’s team-building trip to Escape Asylum…

Terrific Team Building

Diwali was a day off teaching, but the fun never stops at Spark Academy.

 

Thursday 19th October was Diwali Day. Many in Leicester gathered to celebrate a new year. For Spark Academy, this meant an unusual day without teaching. Instead the team gathered to celebrate together.

The academic year began with the introduction of four new members of the team, and due to Spark Academy’s busy start this term not much time had been available for team building. Diwali Day offered a perfect opportunity for the team to get together and strengthen their bonds further.escape room - Spark Academy

Mital Thanki said

The aim of the day was to enhance relationships within the team as well as to work effectively together on something completely non-work related. This helps us feel more connected, form tighter bonds and work in a unified manner. This is exactly what we’re about at Spark Academy – team work definitely makes dreamwork!

 

The Team-Building Activity

 

The decision was made to go to Escape Asylum in Leicester, where groups are placed in a room and given 60 minutes to escape. The rooms are full of puzzles, mazes and ask the group to work together as a team to escape. Firstly, Spark Academy team split into two groups and headed into two different escape rooms: Asylum and the Cabin.

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(Left to right) Nic Hey, Chris Nelson, Mital Thanki, Barb Herbert and Charlotte Perrott celebrating their win in Aslyum

The Asylum team needed to solve a murder in order to escape, facing terrifying ordeals (including crazed clowns) along their way. The Cabin team worked tirelessly to escape from Eyeball Bill, piecing together clue after clue to try and make it out on time.

Nic Hey (Aslyum) told The Spark that she learnt

the perils of blocking our success, and the challenge of overcoming your own weaknesses in order to succeed. These are valuable lessons I think we can apply to our working lives at Spark

 

Those who faced the Asylum escaped with five minutes to spare. The Cabin team, however, were not as lucky. Their last moments in the room were filled with desperation, trying to work out the last clue to escape. Unfortunately, escape was not on the cards for them that day.

Gemma Kirby (the Cabin) argues that

despite being unable to escape, we really pulled together as a team to make it as far as we did – just a few seconds longer and we’d make it!

 

The Aftermath

 

Although one team was riddled with disappointment, they did learn the value of working together. In both groups it was clear that they would not have been able to complete as much

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(Left to right) Rebecca Rowland, Katherine Young, Gemma Kirby, Nidhi Rana and Vikz Chauhan commiserating after being caught by Eyeball Bill in the Cabin.

as they did without the contribution of every team member.

Charlotte Perrott (Aslyum) said

having to discover solutions for ourselves was invaluable. Developing the skills to do this in Asylum has helped me learn how to approach and overcome challenges in my working life

 

The outing was like a microcosm of Spark Academy itself – without the valuable contributions of each staff member, Spark Academy would not be able to provide the incredible service it does. Now that Diwali is over, and all celebrations have been had, it is time for teaching at Spark Academy to resume as normal. The positive outcomes of the team building exercise will surely be seen as the term continues.

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The whole team at the end of the trip

 

 

Parent Perspectives: ‘In-depth and thorough learning’

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At Spark, it is important to us that we hear the views of our parents. Ultimately, our parents make it possible for us to keep providing the level of education and service we love. We always want to check in to see what you think. Every so often it’s nice to celebrate the lovely things you have to say! We have been chatting to the parents of one of our Year 9s, Dhruv Mamnani, to find out what they think about Dhruv’s time at Spark.

Dhruv has been with Spark for English and Maths for nearly three years now. Last year he was finding that Year 8 was a step up from Year 7 and wanted the extra support Spark can provide. In particular, his parents told us they wanted

to enhance his foundations in subjects like English and Maths

 

We find this is a theme when it comes to asking parents why they looked for tuition, especially at Key Stage 3. The

jump from primary to secondary education can be sometimes be hard to bridge, which is why we work hard to cover the foundation content across all year groups. This can help our students approach GCSEs with more confidence, which is exactly how Dhruv’s parents feel too; they told us they hoped Spark could help Dhruv

so that he feels more and more confident as he progresses through

 

The Teaching

 

Dhruv originally attended lessons at our Belgrave site, and swapped to Oadby later in the year. This means he’s in a

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unique position of having seen our well lessons work at both of our sites! It’s wonderful to hear high praise from his parents about all of his teachers, as they told us

the standard and level of teaching is always at its best and the attention given to students by the tutors is highly admirable

 

It’s fantastic to hear that everything we work so hard to achieve during our lessons is paying off!

 

The Content

 

We also wanted to see if Dhruv’s parents felt that the content of his lessons was as worthy of praise as the teaching he had received. Their response didn’t disappoint:

 

The in-depth and thorough learning programme is well focused on the syllabus and is equally balanced between classroom teaching and homework

 

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Dhruv (left) and fellow student Aman before giving a political speech in a recent English lesson

Our teachers, particularly our heads of department, have all spent a long time thinking carefully about our schemes of work. As we only have one lesson a week with our students, it’s paramount that we plan our lessons and arrange the content we teach carefully to make sure we are able to cover everything. That means it’s wonderful to hear that our parents recognise how much we have worked to make our lessons as useful and effective as we can!

Knowing that our balance of homework and classwork works well for Dhruv is also very useful for us. We are keenly aware that our students attend tuition as extra support and that sometimes their workload from school can be quite high. We strive to ensure we strike the perfect balance when it comes to homework, and it looks like we might have achieved it!

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As parents, would you recommend us?

 

Spark’s reputation and ability to serve ever growing numbers of students really depends on one thing: do our parents value the work we do enough to recommend us to other parents and students in need?

Certainly

 

was the response from Dhruv’s parents!

We appreciate the support and hope Dhruv continues to find his time with us useful and enjoyable. Thank you for the kind words!

To find out more about the work Dhruv has been doing lately, have a look at our recent Teacher Talk post.

Has our parent perspective encouraged you to try us out? Find out more here and book in for your free trial today!

 

 

 

Teacher Talk: Numerous Uses for Numicon!

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Our primary specialist Vikz has introduced a fantastic new tool to Spark this year – Numicon. Already this amazing addition has had a profound affect on our lessons. Students, teachers and parents are finding that Numicon is a wonderful supporting tool in lesson time. But what is it really and how does it work?

Numicon: What is it?

 

The Oxford University Press describes Numicon as ‘a multi-sensory approach’ to maths. It is used both at home and at school. This means that using it at Spark has unlimited benefits for our students. Vikz teaches several of our Maths classes up until Year 7 and has found Numicon is a wonderful tool to use for all ages.

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These fabulous brightly pieces are useful for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They can also be set out next to each other or piled on top of each other. Even more, you can use any of the different sized blocks together – it all depends on what types of numeracy you’re learning that day!

 

How does it actually work?

 

Numicon works by giving students a visual and physical representation of the sums they are doing. Have a look at this picture:

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If you are working on addition, the pieces let children see different ways of making the same number. Students can literally fill in the gaps to make 20!

If you were looking at subtraction, you’d simply use the pieces in reverse. Ask a student to answer 20-10 using two 10-pieces, and they are able to lift away a 10-piece to help them work out the answer. For students who struggle with numeracy, this tool can make a huge difference.

 

How are you using Numicon at Spark?

 

Have a look for yourself!

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Understanding the four times table can be as easy as reaching for a new 4-piece. First the students get to grips with their times tables using Numicon… Then their overall understanding is improved from a ground level up. Vikz often has students compete against themselves in ‘speed runs’; how many correct times table answers they can write down

at the beginning of the lesson versus at the end of the lesson. Unsurprisingly, a little work with these amazingly colourful pieces and the second ‘speed run’ is always an improvement!

 

Here you can see one of our Year 3 students working hard at his 3 times table. In addition to Vikz’s teaching, Eshaan finds Numicon a great benefit in his lessons.

 

 

Here at Spark we are always looking for new ways to teach. We are passionate about helping our students. You can see already, in only October, how helpful Numicon can be for our classes. Of course, it is our brilliant Vikz who has been able to use this educational tool to such great effect. You’re doing amazing work there, Vikz, keep it up!

 

The Spark: Successful SATs Support

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Welcome to this week’s edition of The Spark. Tuesday is News-day and this week’s article ‘Sublime SATs Support’ showcases one primary school’s gratitude to Spark Academy…

Sublime SATs Support

Spark Tuition aids ‘amazing results’ in SATs Scores

 

This week Spark Academy has received an email from a primary school close to their hearts. Sacred Heart Primary School in Leicester contacted founder Mital Thanki to thank her for tuition support provided to their Year 6 students in the last academic year.

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The multiplication dice game is popular with all of our students, giving them the power to create and solve their own sums!

 

Sacred Heart contacted Mital last year to organise intervention support for some of their struggling students. The school was determined to help students achieve in their SATs in May. Spark Academy was part of their plan to support students as well as improve their results.

 

Bespoke Support

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Brutus the Roman helped Nic teach students about roman numerals

 

Over a period of five weeks Nic Hey went to the school to offer bespoke support to ten students. Our tutors designed each lesson to target areas of concern for those pupils. This meant that the students received tuition that was truly tailored to their needs.

Nic was able to work with the students on the topics of roman numerals, percentages, angles, long multiplication and division to offer individualised support to aid student’s understanding. In addition to useful support, Nic provided continuously enjoyable lessons using resources created alongside Chris Nelson. Sacred Heart viewed the support provided as ‘amazing’.

 

Fantastic Results

 

These 10 students sat their SATs along with all other Year 6s in the country in May of this year. Both the school and Spark Academy eagerly awaited the student’s results. Everyone wanted to see what effect the extra support provided had on the results.

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Starters were a fun way to test students’ basic numeracy skills

Sacred Heart told Mital: ‘We achieved National Average in Maths – we’ve never done that before’.

The incredible results achieved by these students are due to several factors. These were the hard work of the students, the dedication of Sacred Heart’s teachers and the ‘tutoring Nicola delivered added’ to this success. As a result, Sacred Heart is hoping to involve Spark Academy in supporting its students again this year.

Mital and the Spark team are looking forward to supporting Sacred Heart students. They are also celebrating these amazing results and excited to building on their good relationship with Sacred Heart.

 

 

 

Student Thought: ‘Challenging but fun’

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Student Thoughts is a new feature for us at Spark Ideas. At Spark, we always value what our students think of us and this seemed like a good place to let their opinions shine!

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This week we spoke to one of our Year 9 groups to see what they think of Spark. These are a group of English and Maths students from the Oadby site. They had a lot of nice things to say!

 

What do you enjoy about learning at Spark Academy?

 

 I enjoy working with the people I get along with.

Anaya

The work is challenging but fun and you easily get on with the other people in your group.

K*

Group work is a staple in a lot of our English lessons at Spark. It’s fantastic to hear that students are not just benefiting from this, but building friendships to enjoy working with their classmates.

 

That teachers give you extra help and are by your side to help you exceed your best. And you have more attention from teachers.

Rhea

 

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It’s brilliant to hear that our efforts aren’t going to waste – our small classes really do help the students succeed!

 

Did you look at other tuition services before Spark? If so, why did you pick Spark Academy?

 

Most of the students said they hadn’t looked anywhere else – for Aman and Rhea, Spark has been their first and only tuition provider. As Dhruv says:

This is really good!

 

I also found out lots of students have come to us through recommendations:

My cousins recommended this tuition and I had a free trial lesson which I loved. I have been coming here now for 3 years.

Rhea

 

My friend recommended it.

Aman

Those students who had tried elsewhere before Spark were definitely happy to be here now:

 

[I did go to another provider] but they weren’t as good because this [is] more modern and I really enjoy it.

K*

 

I didn’t learn anything at my other tuition.

Anaya

I think we’re all glad to hear you’re learning a lot more with us, Anaya!

 

Anything else to add?

 

Tuition has helped me massively and has made my grades higher, especially in Maths. Tuition has made me gain a lot of confidence.

Rhea

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It was wonderful to hear all of the lovely things our Year 9 class had to say, especially as many of the students have been with us for a few years now. We hope that you continue to enjoy and learn with us!

Want to know more about the work our students have been doing? Look here to find out!

Interested in experiencing Spark like our amazing Year 9s? Book your free trial today!

*preferred to be anonymous on-line

Teacher Talk: The Spark Elections 2017

At Spark, we think it’s important for the teachers to talk to you, as students and parents, about the work we’re doing in our lessons. Spark is about useful, honest and fun education. We’re always looking for ways to link our work to the real world. One day our students will be adults and we hope to give them the understanding and skills they’ll need when we get there. That’s why over the last couple of weeks in English we have held a Spark Election with our Year 9 students.

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Speeches

 

A lot of our students find the idea of writing and giving speeches terrifying. Not only is this a key skill students will have to demonstrate during their GCSEs, but many job interviews will ask students to give presentations. Talking in front of others confidently is something we all have to do at during our lives. This is what makes it such an important topic for us to cover at Spark.

We started by thinking about persuasive writing. Looking at speeches by others helped students understand how techniques like rhetorical questions and repetition can be used to get your point across. We compared speeches by Barrack Obama and James Corden (as his well-known character Smithy) to see how even comedy and political speeches use these techniques.

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Political Parties

 

Once the students were happy with how to use different persuasive techniques, it was time to start thinking about writing a political speech. As a class we talked about what political parties are and what they do in our country. It was important for us to understand fringe parties too. Our political parties wouldn’t be mainstream. We split our classes into groups and gave them a fictional political party.20171011 180456 e1507741676283 - Spark Academy

Splitting the classes into groups meant that they would have to work as a team – not just to write their speeches but to complete their manifesto and agree on policies for all of the important areas of politics. They were able to consider and explore different opinions on tax, education, health, immigration and crime among other ideas. It was fantastic to hear as students started to think about the wider implications of their ideas. Each group had long discussions on what public opinions on their ideas might be before they agreed on policies!

 

Campaign Speeches

 

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After the policy decisions had been made and the speeches written, it was finally time for groups to deliver their speeches. The nominated Party Leader from each group introduced the speeches and every member of the group needed to speak. The speeches were all very impressive. It was clear that not only had the groups worked hard to write an effective speech, but they’d deliberated over policy details to try and increase their chance of winning the election.

Voting and Results

 

After the speeches, it was time to vote. Every student received an ballot paper to cast their vote.

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After counting the ballots!

We wanted everything to be as close to a real election as possible. The votes were all anonymous and counted up to discover the winners. You can watch one of our winning speeches below!

So… why political speeches?

 

Over the course of the two lessons our Year 9 classes learnt how to write and present speeches effectively. They evaluated each other’s speeches and completed a self evaluation to help themselves when they next cover speech writing. Our students also had a crash course in how our democracy works. In fact, they participated in it! Spark is all about preparing our students for the future. Exploring politics at the same time as speeches gave our students a glimpse of real world issues.

In a time when so few young people take an interest in politics, hopefully our work will encourage future voters to take notice. One day they could even be putting their speech skills to working in politics themselves. I can’t think of a better outcome than that!